Arachidonic acid boosts anabolic stimulus of strength training

Bodybuilders who take a daily supplement containing 1.5 g arachidonic acid will speed up their muscle growth. They’ll develop strength and speed more quickly than bodybuilders who don’t take the stuff, write American sports scientists in PLoS One. Their study showed that the fatty acid strengthens the anabolic stimulus of strength training at molecular level.

Arachidonic acid is present in small amounts in the food we eat. It’s an omega-6 fatty acid that the body makes by converting other omega-6 fatty acids. The resulting arachidonic acid then becomes the raw material for making inflammatory factors – and these play a role in muscle growth.

Steroids expert and supplement maker William Llewellyn is the spiritual father of the theory that strength athletes can build up more muscle and strength by consuming more arachidonic acid. His company Molecular Nutrition produces the supplement X-Factor, which contains arachidonic acid.

Arachidonic acid boosts anabolic stimulus of strength training
In their human study the researchers gave 15 male students, all of whom were seasoned strength athletes, 1.5 g arachidonic acid for a period of 8 weeks. A similar control group was given a placebo.

The supplement that the researchers used was X-Factor. Molecular Nutrition sponsored the study.

The animal study lasted for 8 days. The researchers gave the animals the equivalent of the human dose, administering it orally. They imitated the human strength training by subjecting the lab rat’s muscles to electrical pulses so they contracted.

Human study
In 2014 the researchers presented the results of their human study in the form of a poster. You can read more about this here.

We also lifted the three figures below from the PLoS-One study. They summarise the most important results of the human study. You’ll notice that arachidonic increased the maximal strength for bench presses and leg presses, lean body mass, and the power [i.e. speed] that the subjects were capable of developing on the cyclometer.

Grey bars: arachidonic acid group; white bars: placebo group.


Animal study
In the muscles of the animals that had been given arachidonic acid the researchers not only observed increased synthesis of muscle protein, but also greater amounts of activated Akt. Akt is an anabolic signalling molecule. In addition, arachidonic acid boosted the synthesis of the anabolic molecules myoD and myogenin.

Non-Ex CTL = untrained muscle group, placebo; Ex CTL = trained muscle group, placebo; ARA Non-Ex = untrained muscle group, arachidonic acid; ARA Ex = trained muscle group, arachidonic acid.


“Our findings suggest that arachidonic acid supplementation can positively augment strength-training induced adaptations in resistance-trained males”, the researchers concluded. “However, chronic studies at the molecular level are required to further elucidate how arachidonic acid combined with strength training affect muscle adaptation.”

Effects of Arachidonic Acid Supplementation on Acute Anabolic Signaling and Chronic Functional Performance and Body Composition Adaptations


The primary purpose of this investigation was to examine the effects of arachidonic acid (ARA) supplementation on functional performance and body composition in trained males. In addition, we performed a secondary study looking at molecular responses of ARA supplementation following an acute exercise bout in rodents.

Thirty strength-trained males (age: 20.4 ± 2.1 yrs) were randomly divided into two groups: ARA or placebo (i.e. CTL). Then, both groups underwent an 8-week, 3-day per week, non-periodized training protocol. Quadriceps muscle thickness, whole-body composition scan (DEXA), muscle strength, and power were assessed at baseline and post-test. In the rodent model, male Wistar rats (~250 g, ~8 weeks old) were pre-fed with either ARA or water (CTL) for 8 days and were fed the final dose of ARA prior to being acutely strength trained via electrical stimulation on unilateral plantar flexions. A mixed muscle sample was removed from the exercised and non-exercised leg 3 hours post-exercise.

Lean body mass (2.9%, p<0.0005), upper-body strength (8.7%, p<0.0001), and peak power (12.7%, p<0.0001) increased only in the ARA group. For the animal trial, GSK-? (Ser9) phosphorylation (p<0.001) independent of exercise and AMPK phosphorylation after exercise (p-AMPK less in ARA, p = 0.041) were different in ARA-fed versus CTL rats.

Our findings suggest that ARA supplementation can positively augment strength-training induced adaptations in resistance-trained males. However, chronic studies at the molecular level are required to further elucidate how ARA combined with strength training affect muscle adaptation.

Source: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155153

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